Commuters pay one of the highest prices per mile for living in town

    Tunbridge Wells Train Station

    TUNBRIDGE WELLS to London has been named as one of the most expensive commuter routes in the country following the latest rise in annual season tickets.

    A 12 month standard ticket will now set passengers back £4,484 – an £80 (1.8 per cent) increase from last year.

    Since 2008, the cost of an annual fare on the Southeastern service has increased by £1,484, a 50 per cent rise.

    And if you go back a further five years to 2003, a year-long season ticket cost £2,412 – almost half of what it is now.

    At the current rate, a commuter who makes a return journey five days a week, excluding 25 days annual leave and bank holidays, would spend 31 pence per mile travelled. That’s the eighth highest rate in the country, according to a BBC analysis.

    Other Kent stations feature in the top ten, with Sevenoaks the second dearest at 38 pence per mile and Tonbridge sixth (33 pence per mile).

    It is the first year that increases have been capped by the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which this year was 1.9 per cent.

    HELD TO RANSOM

    But local passenger groups such as Tonbridge Line Commuters have called for a limit based on the consumer price index (CPI), which this year was 0.6 per cent.

    CPI is almost always lower than RPI, mostly due to the different formulae used to calculate the figures. RPI includes housing costs such as mortgage interest payments and council tax. CPI does not.

    MP Greg Clark said: “Any increase in fares is unwelcome, especially given the poor service over the past year. I will continue to make the case for reversing the unfairness that resulted in higher fares for us compared to other lines, including the above inflation increases on Kent commuters that went to pay for the Channel Tunnel rail link.”

    The majority of money, however, does not go into the pockets of executives according to the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators. They claim that around 97p in every pound paid by passengers goes back into running and improving services.

    A Southeastern spokesperson said: “We understand that value for money is a priority for our passengers and that’s why we are offering discounts and freezing prices on specific off peak fares, which are the ones under our control.”

    The latest rise in costs has been met with concern by Tunbridge Wells commuters.

    Emma Keywood, who works in the financial district said she felt held to ransom by the franchise: “It is so expensive but I have to get to work so I don’t really have a choice. I suppose that is the danger of monopolies.”

    Jerry Edey, who recently stopped commuting due to a career change, said: “For a regular commuter, it really makes you think twice about getting jobs in London. The cost takes such a huge chunk out of your salary.”

    A history of rises (cost of annual season ticket)

    • 2017 – £4,4842016 – £4,404

      2015 – £4,364

      2014 – £4,260

      2013 – £4,132

      2012 – £3,968

      2011 – £3,748

      2010 – £3,352

      2009 – £3,300

      2008 – £3,000

    Cheaper comparable journeys

    A flight to New York from the UK costs an average of £458.58. At an air travel distance of 3,470 miles. This works out as 13 pence per mile.

    The price of a Eurostar ticket to Paris starts from £45. This means the 214 mile journey only costs 21 pence per mile.